Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Toxic Gold Paint

[A dead, naked, gold-painted woman would certainly be newsworthy, but I’m not aware of any Goldfinger-like reports from the first half of the twentieth century. That’s not to say that no performers ever passed out from the fumes or suffered severe reactions to the paint. – BC]

Leslie Zemeckis, Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013), pp. 140, 187-8.

[Lillian Kiernan Brown worked as a burlesque stripper under various names – Lily Ann Rose, Lloma Rhodes, Shadow, and Statue.]

She was the girl in gold for a statue act. “In those days, if you were scantily dressed you couldn’t move.” Barely clad beauties would pose on the stage as frozen statues in tableau. Lillian was covered head to toe in toxic gold paint. It was a popular “outfit” at the time and performers only had a short period of time to be covered in the paint, then they would have to get out of it. “You could die from it. In fact, a lot of performers did die.”

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[Roz Elle Rowland] was quite literally the “Golden Girl.” She worked with her nude body spray-painted gold, a sometime dangerous occupation. Many people died from the toxic paints, Lily Ann Rose said.

She was making $3.50 a day at the Irving Palace in New York. Theatre impresario Nils Thor (“Granny”) Granlund hired her for three times that amount. Granny had her nude body painted gold and stood her on a pedestal, and in slow motion she performed an acrobatic dance. It took three pails of hot water at the end of the night to remove the paint. She became known as “Goldie.”